Author Archives: don

The Future Decision Makers In The Cloud

The Future Decision Makers in the Cloud: Managing Expectations as Power Shifts from IT to the Executives

Could the reign of the IT department over cloud computing business decisions be coming to an end? Writing for ZD Net, Sam Shead reported on a survey that demonstrated a dramatic changing of the guard when it comes to decisions about implementing cloud technologies. Rather than leaders in the IT department, executives are taking charge of critical decisions involving the cloud signaling both the importance of cloud technology and up coming changes in the way this medium will be managed.

The report, issued by Capgemini, covers responses from 460 companies worldwide and provides evidence that a shift is taking place from the IT department to executives without IT experience. Citing the UK as one example, the report states that more times than not, business executives are the key decision makers when it comes to the cloud.

Part of the reason for this change may be the buzz about some IT people viewing the cloud as having a cannibalizing affect on their jobs. More likely it’s the growing importance of how the cloud will fit into the corporate strategy over the next several years.

Conceptualizing the Shift

By understanding the group dynamics behind these moves you can put yourself into a better position to manage these changes by understanding Tuckman’s developmental stages of within groups.

Tuckman’s research in 1965 articulates developmental stages associated with the performance of teams when uniting to achieve a goal. These stages are entitled forming, storming, norming, and performing. For now, we will consider the forming and storming stages pertaining to the power shift from IT to the business executives.

Forming is exactly what it sounds like in that everyone is working together to establish cooperation in a collegial way. The next stage, storming, seems to be where the executives are at now with the IT people. Certainly there is a need to collaborate given the technical issues involved, however it is also at this juncture when both alliances and power structures of the future are being established.

Of course the goal is to move from the storming stage into the norming and performing stages as equilibrium becomes established so everyone can work together to meet goals. However, many teams fail at the storming stage.

Managing the Shift

You can avoid failure at the storming stage by understanding the natural developmental stages found within groups as articulated by Tuckman. Change is much less threatening for players when the groundwork is laid during the norming stage. This is the best time to prepare team members for upcoming changes to help lessen emotional stress. Team leaders need to clearly spell out what the upcoming changes mean for the team member’s duties and the consequent adjustment in expectations.

If the changes are not communicated and agreed to during the norming stage, then leaders can expect serious problems during the storming stage. By communicating early, clearly, and often, leader’s can avoid a lot of unproductive ugliness later.

By Don Cleveland

Survival In The Cloud Depends On Experimentation

Survival In The Cloud Depends On Experimentation

I was fascinated to hear Jeff Bezos comment that Amazon’s expected $1.5 billion in revenue via their Amazon Web services business was successful due their focus on experimentation. The experimentation paradigm is the most important strategy for cloud executives to execute successfully, lest they fail to take full advantage of the monumental opportunity the cloud is offering.

Our brains are actively involved in mental experiments almost continuously. We’re always speculating about what comes next and what our response will be. However, the experimental process Bezos is referring to is something much more formal and takes a lot more effort. Focusing on this more formal level of experimentation requires a commitment to the experimental process.

Executing Experimental Concepts For Success

An experiment involves assumptions, exercises, and measurement. With regard to assumptions, it is critical to start with the right statements or questions. By asking concrete questions specific to your task, you will be guided to the specific answers you’re looking for. The key here’s to avoid interesting but distracting rabbit trails. An example of a concrete question could be: If we hire a writer to write sales copy and sales increase 20% percent, what will our return on investment (ROI) be?

The next step is to develop exercises or assumptions. That way you will know what to measure in step three to determine whether or not the experiment was successful.

  • Hypothesis #1: if we invest $1000 for a writer and sales go up 20%, we will have gained an ROI of 30%
  • Hypothesis #2: if we invest $1000 for a writer and sales go up 10%, we will have gained an ROI of 15%
  • Hypothesis #3: if we invest $1000 for a writer and sales do not go up we will have a loss of $1000.
  • Result #1: when we invested $1000 for a writer and sales grew 20%, should we assign more work to this writer?
  • Result #2: we invested $1000 for a writer and sales grew 10%, what can we do next time to get sales up to the targeted 20% increase? (Hire a different writer?)
  • Result #3: we invested $1000 for a writer and sales did not go up and we lost thousand dollars, what’s other strategies can we experiment with to get sales up to the targeted 20% increase?

Before you write off the oversimplification of the above example, consider how many of us actually put pen to paper at the various stages described above?

By writing through the research process we are better able to strategize and track results. Many believe they can wing it by simply thinking about it. However, memory is not as accurate as we would like it to be. Life’s daily distractions cloud an unwritten experiment while a written one holds us accountable to the success we seek.

Most of us will not achieve $1.5 billion in revenue. But we can increase our business year after year by disciplining ourselves to take experimentation to a new level.

By Donald Cleveland

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 3: Overcoming Unhealthy Fixations

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 3: Overcoming Unhealthy Fixations

One example of an unhealthy fixation is the 2012 survey by Security Alliance who learned that the top threat listed by survey participants is data loss.

Of course security risks on the cloud cannot be ignored but clearly this problem is hugely overstated. Why executives and retail consumers, who lose everything from their car keys to their hard earned cash, (not to mention their own data mishaps) are so concerned about the cloud is more than fearing a loss of control. These individuals are struggling with what Gestalt psychologists refer to as fixation.

Understanding Fixations

Fixation is the tendency to focus on one specific aspect of a problem. All of us have experienced this phenomenon at one time or another referring to it casually as,  “freezing up”, or, “obsessing” over an issue. The Gestalt school also referred to a, “functional fixedness” that relates to limiting an object to its familiar use in every day life.

For the retail customer the functional fixation is based on fear, but the executive might just be exhausted by all the technological innovation over the past decade. The CEO may be thinking, “Hey, I’ve made huge investments in IT and all is well.” Of course this might be true for the moment, but in his functional fixedness he will only rest comfortably with the current tools until they break.

Solving Fixation Problems

Solving Fixation problems involves breaking free from herd mentality and approaching a problem from entirely different viewpoints. This idea is the very fire that fuels much of the success in the development of technological products. However, increasing the number of cloud adopters in the human realm is a lot different than strategizing within the rational language of computers. When dealing with flesh and blood anything is possible.

While negotiating the acquisition of a business during my younger years I learned the unpredictability of flesh and blood. During the sixth hour of these talks it became obvious that things were headed in the wrong direction. Out of desperation I suddenly asked, “What’s really bothering you?” The guy told me he was having trouble with his girlfriend and elaborated on the problems for a while. After I heard him out he suddenly said, “Let’s get this done”. I’m convinced that if I remained, “fixated” on the terms of the deal, the deal would not have closed. And yet wasn’t I there to talk terms? No. I was there to get the deal done.

The experience related above was an accident. Our goal is approach problems on the cloud free of fixed opinions, fixed ideas, and fixed understandings and to do this on purpose. Like Jack Bower on the TV series 24, take a look around and keep improvising until something works.

Whatever technical, marketing, or intractable people problem you are working on today remember, there is more than one way to skin a cat, you just have to find the way that works.

By Don Cleveland

Overcoming Denial In The Cloud

Overcoming Denial In The Cloud

One of the most critical aspects of doing business in the cloud is clarity. When mistakes are made it’s often due to mistaken judgments based on information processed in the brain incorrectly. Marketers must read their audience and a company like Cisco must not over pay in their $1.2 billion bid for Meraki. Misreading your audience or overpaying for an acquisition is far too common. How do we make sure technology decisions today will have a positive impact on our tomorrow? By painting a crystal clear picture about the situation we are facing.

Understanding Denial

Denial is our internal enemy, a way to trick ourselves into thinking we understand what is going on so we can avoid anxious feelings of insecurity. This isn’t done knowingly or intentionally, it’s just a way for us to avoid the anxiety we can experience when making critical assessments of our marketing or spending $1.2 billion on an acquisition.

The executives at Cisco won’t know for sure if their $1.2 billion investment panned out for at least a year after the deal closes. The marketer doesn’t know how the campaign will go until the results are tallied. The difference between success and failure will be in the information they attended to while making their decision. Therefore, the goal is to avoid making decisions based on wishful thinking.

Dealing with Denial

Attention is the critical component when the goal is to make an objective decision. Most of us have a tendency to attend to the aspects of a situation that make us feel less anxious. For example if Cisco’s overarching goal in acquiring Meraki is to be the largest cloud provider, executives will naturally attend to the positives of what closing this deal does to meet this need, sometimes at the expense of the more obvious issues of creating cash flow and turning a profit. When an element of fear is involved the situation is even more likely to result in a blunder.

Let’s say the marketer in our example fears failure. He has hit a rough patch and needs a big win to make up for big losses. His manager has advised him to switch copywriters as the long time standby’s quality has been slipping over the last year. However, the current copywriter is his investor’s son. If denial is in play the marketer isn’t thinking, “I better not fire the copywriter or I will upset the investor.” Instead the marketer is avoiding the issue of the relationship between the investor and the copywriter because he does not want to confront the investor. So he finds another reason, “I better not fire the copywriter because he is so loyal, I’m sure things will turn around.

The key to overcoming denial in the psychological sense is to:

  • 1st – Understand what you fear or typically avoid
  • 2nd – Have your partner or advisor talk you through those issues

By embracing and wrestling with that which we would rather avoid, we can make better decisions in the cloud today.

By Don Cleveland

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 2: PaaS Adoption Rates Lag Behind SaaS, Again

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 2: PaaS Adoption Rates Lag Behind SaaS, Again

Continued From Part 1

In the 1920s Gestalt Psychologists developed the concept that by reimagining a difficulty one could solve a problem. This meant restructuring a problem’s components by recasting one’s mental picture. Perhaps this is what’s needed when it comes to PaaS.

With advent of the personal computer, the business dynamics of the cloud have long since moved away from its original expectations, but its return to the original vision may arrive sooner than we think. The idea then was a handful of networks running the show but the more current version of PaaS’ arrival depends on the imaginations of PaaS enthusiasts. Before we consider that, let’s detail the PaaS problem as it currently stands.

The Current Paas Status

Writing for Cloud Tech, James Bourne reports on the current lack of adoption problem with PaaS. Citing research from Symform, Bourne confirms the ongoing dynamic that software-as-a-service (SaaS) continues building sales while platform-as-a-service (PaaS) stagnates. This 500 participant study demonstrated that 79% of those surveyed are utilizing SaaS and that 48% had no plans of utilizing PaaS. Meanwhile the ancient history of cloud computing reflects that it all began in quite the opposite way.

Paas History

A recent infographic points out that it all began in 1950 when Herb Grosch’s imagined the entire world running on terminals that received information from 15 large data centers, a somewhat Orwellian sounding prospect. (PaaS sounds better.) Think ahead towards a maturing cloud industry and it’s not hard to imagine a more democratic version of Grosch’s prediction coming true. But what does a stakeholder do in the meantime?

Gestalt Approaches to PaaS & Amazon

How can we reimagine PaaS to meet the needs and demands of clients trained to own their platforms since the beginning of the personal computer revolution? Retrain the consumer.

Many business revolutions began through selling to the retail customer. While politicians were promising a  chicken in every pot, Henry Ford had already been working on a car in every driveway in the same way that Microsoft and Apple worked to get Windows and iOS operating systems into every household and business. All those customers had to be trained to some degree. Its seems Amazon has reimagined its cloud in much the same way.

Since cost drives consumer sales and most consumers remain fixated on ownership, Amazon has decided to give it away. When I bought my daughters textbooks last fall from I received a credit from Amazon’s cloud that includes a player. Seven songs got me rolling that I can download to my iPod account. What Amazon got was a current customer logging more frequently unto their site and even spending a little more money. Perhaps most important in this transaction is the retraining of a consumer in the ABCs of PaaS. How can you reimagine your barriers and create a whole new set of solutions?

By Don Cleveland

Accessing The Real Risk Of Cloud Computing

Accessing the Real Risk of Cloud Computing: Is the Sky is Falling or are the Failures a Blip on the Radar Screen?

It’s interesting to follow the big money that big companies are spending. It’s a lot like watching a huge ocean liner set sail for exotic places or a stretch limousine glide though town. These oddities can’t help but be seen but I often wonder if anyone is really watching.

According to a Wall Street Journal article from last spring entitled, “The Sun Shines on The Cloud”  the research firm IDC reported 16 billion in cloud revenue for 2009 and projects a $73 billion investment to be made by 2015. The background of this article is Amazon’s partial cloud failure that kicked Netflix and a host of other customers off the network last June. Amazon explained and apologized and the headlines screamed panic.

At the time and even now Amazon continues with business as usual in the cloud. In Luchi’s Week In Review piece last week on Cloud Tweaks, he reported that Amazon is seeking to control the domain .cloud. The mammoth doesn’t seem very worried about power outages or security risks. Nor has Netflix run away from the cloud when the temporary hitch affected their business. Apparently these disruptions we hear about every now and then are a blip on the radar screen. The big guys are basing their future on the cloud while many remain skeptical and concerned about security. Why can’t smaller companies think like big companies? Perhaps fear holds them back, a fear we are not even aware of.

Fear Conditioning and Memory

Perhaps one of the things that separate big business cloud adoption from small business hesitation is a negative first time experience lodged in one’s memory that is now perceived as fact, also known as fear conditioning. Fear conditioning is the phenomenon that describes fears that develop when one’s initial harrowing experience with a situation is generalized to future related experiences.

If a dog bites a person at an early age they may respond fearfully with all dogs until they can overcome their fear. This happens in part by experiencing the fact that the vast majority of dogs do not bite. Likewise if an executive experiences a harrowing loss of data through a hardware failure he may, without thinking, react negatively to shifting some of his operations to the cloud as he associates this more efficient hypothetical prospect of the cloud with the much more familiar memory when a data loss happened on his watch.

Changing this situation involves reconsolidating one’s memory over time. Every time the memory of the dog bite is retrieved when a dog is presented and nothing bad happens, the fear becomes less and less. As the cloud proves its value over time more and more people will sign on. By then the big guys will be unto the next big thing and those of us who aren’t there yet will still be watching.

By Don Cleveland

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 1: Netflix’s Example Of Strategic Problem Solving

Solving Problems On The Cloud Part 1: Netflix’s Example Of Strategic Problem Solving

Technical, marketing, and personnel, are all problems you may be facing in the cloud today.  To deal successfully with these issues we must avoid the common mistake of fixating on the immediate issues surrounding the problem and start taking steps to move the roadblocks out of the way. Netflix demonstrated this when they avoided a prolonged cloud outage courtesy of their friends at Amazon.

Cognitive science defines a problem as an obstacle in the present that is blocking a goal in the future. That’s a reasonable explanation but it’s not enough to solve anything. Let’s break it down a little more. A problem can also be well defined or poorly defined. The first step is to define the problem in a concrete proactive way.

Netflix had a problem. When their users want to watch a movie they don’t want to wait until Amazon fixes a cloud outage.

This issue could result in a serious loss of business. This observation is a good description of a problem but a poorly defined one. Transforming a problem description into a well-defined problem focuses our attention toward the best possible solution and keeps us off the path of murky and unclear solutions that find us staring at our screen fixating on issues we can do nothing about.

Moving Towards a Solution: Crafting a Well Defined Problem

A well-defined problem is one that leads to specific steps that can be realistically applied towards a specific end. At some point the professionals at Netflix transformed their ill-defined problem, outages upset customers who may cancel services, to a well-defined problem, how can we anticipate cloud outages so we can switch to another zone before our customer’s service in interrupted? Their answer was to develop Asgard technology that produces code that changes and manages Amazon resources better than the console provided by Amazon.

This seems simple enough but only because thinking through the problem description resulted a more concrete direction to solve what became a well-defined problem. We can imagine that in reality there were dozens of possible solutions. The Netflix team had to choose wisely lest the problem continue or even worsen. Still, this type foundational re-ordering of the problem is a solid first step toward solving any issue.

During the last week of October Asgard was put to the test as Netflix faced an outage. Within 20 minutes service was restored.  As we are put to test when it comes to problem solving skills, let’s make sure we begin with a well-defined problem before we begin processing scenarios. Next time we will discuss the Gestalt approach to restructuring a problem to add another tool to our problem solving tool mind set.

By Don Cleveland

Changing The Script: Understanding How Mental Schemas Delay Cloud Technology Adoption

Changing The Script: Understanding How Mental Schemas Delay Cloud Technology Adoption

Fans of the TV show Seinfeld know exactly what to expect. The effects of repeated episodes finds the viewer primed to expect laughter at Jerry’s cleverness, Kramer’s odd interpretations, George’s neuroticism, and Elaine’s adventures. The series is organized around a Peter Pan theme of a never-grow-up philosophy of life. The producers even made the finale a comedic success about the four friends being sentenced to prison. But what if they didn’t? What if the last show was presented as a tearjerker having the characters remorseful about their careless actions over the years? Of course this sudden deviation would not have computed well within the human brain as this turnabout would have went against the theme of the entire series.

The Software Schema

When a retail customer or an executive considers adopting the cloud they are breaking a mental script, known as a schema, that is nearly as difficult to imagine as crying over the Seinfeld crew’s jail sentence.

A schema is a psychological theory first proposed by the writer Jean Pigaet and later applied by Bartlett as a cognitive frame that serves as a foundation from which interpretations of events are automatically activated based on prior experience

Cloud computing is a whole new way of thinking about how we use and store data making this strategy an affront to our mental schema of how we manage programs and data. To incorporate a new schema requires integrating new information, a difficult mental leap that requires positive experiences with new technology from the very beginning.

How Apple and Microsoft Got it Right

In a prior column I shared my adventure of buying a MacBook Air and how I had to overcome the bias of salesman to pursue a cloud solution. What happened within an hour of my purchase is a good example of how a schema works and how it can be overcome by new experiences.

After setting up my new Air I desperately needed to get Microsoft Word for Mac. At the retail outlet a panic gripped me as I realized I was buying media to insert into a slot I didn’t have on the Air. The tech told me, “I think you can download it online“. One the way home I had a sinking feeling I had made a terrible mistake and started vowing to never allow myself to be in this situation again.

This example speaks to how sensitive the customer can be at retail, how nervous the CIO can be at the corporate level, and how concerned the IT professional can feel about job security. New challenges to old schemas follow a difficult and winding path on the way to changing a person’s mind-set. When I got home the cloud was there for me and I was writing within 10 minutes. Make sure its there for the next user and another new schema will emerge, and another, and another…

By Don Cleveland

CloudTweaks Comics
Update: Timeline of the Massive DDoS DYN Attacks

Update: Timeline of the Massive DDoS DYN Attacks

DYN DDOS Timeline This morning at 7am ET a DDoS attack was launched at Dyn (the site is still down at the minute), an Internet infrastructure company whose headquarters are in New Hampshire. So far the attack has come in 2 waves, the first at 11.10 UTC and the second at around 16.00 UTC. So…

The DDoS Attack That Shook The World

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DDoS Attack: Update 2 6 days after the DDoS attack that rocked the internet to its core, Dyn have released detailed analysis of the attack and further details have emerged. The attack has been confirmed to have been the largest of its kind in history, and the Mirai botnet has been cited as the official cause.…

Reuters News: Powerfull DDoS Knocks Out Several Large Scale Websites

Reuters News: Powerfull DDoS Knocks Out Several Large Scale Websites

DDoS Knocks Out Several Websites Cyber attacks targeting the internet infrastructure provider Dyn disrupted service on major sites such as Twitter and Spotify on Friday, mainly affecting users on the U.S. East Coast. It was not immediately clear who was responsible. Officials told Reuters that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau…

Cloud Infographic – DDoS attacks, unauthorized access and false alarms

Cloud Infographic – DDoS attacks, unauthorized access and false alarms

DDoS attacks, unauthorized access and false alarms Above DDoS attacks, unauthorized access and false alarms, malware is the most common incident that security teams reported responding to in 2014, according to a recent survey from SANS Institute and late-stage security startup AlienVault. The average cost of a data breach? $3.5 million, or $145 per sensitive…

Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

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The Legal Battle For Privacy In early June 2013, Edward Snowden made headlines around the world when he leaked information about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans. It was a dramatic story. Snowden flew to Hong Kong and then Russia to avoid deportation to the US,…

Having Your Cybersecurity And Eating It Too

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The Catch 22 The very same year Marc Andreessen famously said that software was eating the world, the Chief Information Officer of the United States was announcing a major Cloud First goal. That was 2011. Five years later, as both the private and public sectors continue to adopt cloud-based software services, we’re interested in this…

Multi-Cloud Integration Has Arrived

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Multi-Cloud Integration Speed, flexibility, and innovation require multiple cloud services As businesses seek new paths to innovation, racing to market with new features and products, cloud services continue to grow in popularity. According to Gartner, 88% of total compute will be cloud-based by 2020, leaving just 12% on premise. Flexibility remains a key consideration, and…

Adopting A Cohesive GRC Mindset For Cloud Security

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Cloud Security Mindset Businesses are becoming wise to the compelling benefits of cloud computing. When adopting cloud, they need a high level of confidence in how it will be risk-managed and controlled, to preserve the security of their information and integrity of their operations. Cloud implementation is sometimes built up over time in a business,…

Three Factors For Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Three Factors For Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy A few weeks ago I visited the global headquarters of a large multi-national company to discuss cloud strategy with the CIO. I arrived 30 minutes early and took a tour of the area where the marketing team showcased their award winning brands. I was impressed by the digital marketing strategy…

5 Things To Consider About Your Next Enterprise Sharing Solution

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Enterprise File Sharing Solution Businesses have varying file sharing needs. Large, multi-regional businesses need to synchronize folders across a large number of sites, whereas small businesses may only need to support a handful of users in a single site. Construction or advertising firms require sharing and collaboration with very large (several Gigabytes) files. Financial services…


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